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  • Evolution and Diet

In order to survive in the sometimes harsh environment of earth, both on a daily- and evolutionary-basis, constantly competing with other species for scarce resources, organisms must be able to defend themselves in all realms.  Man has the ability to withstand constant onslaughts by dangerous organisms, pollution, injuries, etc. if our protective mechanisms are up to the task.  This depends on what we eat, the raw materials of life.

Just as it seems that everything is changing faster and faster all the time, so have the changes in our diet been swift and dramatic.  Evolutionary changes to our systems in order to adapt to the foods available requires thousands of generations.  Huge changes to the average diet have occurred in the twentieth century.  Our bodies systems are not prepared to deal with many of these changes.

  • "New" Food, Old Systems

Specifically, the most dramatic change that has affected us in the recent past is the move to more and more processed and synthetic foods.  I do not recommend a very strict diet.  My belief is that we should eat what our bodies enzyme systems can effectively utilize.  This means whole foods, not processed foods.  This means looking at the diet of man before the advent of processing and distribution, which has been a very recent development (please see the discussion of balanced diet on the Editorial page).  If we look at our diets from this perspective, what to eat or not eat becomes a much more simple, intuitively obvious situation.  Let me give a few examples.

Many people have difficulties with dairy products.  This is not surprising.  We have been eating animal products for tens of thousands of years, but before animal husbandry, a very new skill, we did not have the opportunity to accumulate large quantities of milk, much less butter and ice cream.  Now I am not saying that these foods are necessarily bad for you (they pass the first test of being "whole", not overly processed foods).

The point is that every individuals enzyme system will be able to handle different quantities of these foods and some of us will have to restrict them quite a bit.  Refined sugar is the best example of a "new" food, as H.L. Newbold would call it, that is a problem for everyone.  Carbohydrates are the class of foods that provide us the energy we need to survive, the energy to breathe, maintain our body temperature and move around.  Our bodies have a complex and relatively delicate system to process carbohydrates and maintain the proper blood-glucose levels.  These systems are used to process protein, fat and, primarily, complex carbohydrates.  When our diet provides a high level of simple carbohydrates, it is an insult to our systems that produces problems, some short-term (acute), some long-term (chronic).  The chronic problems include hypoglycemia and diabetes mellitus; the acute problems include mood swings and lethargy, the area that includes ADD/ADHD.

  • ADD/ADHD is Most Often a Nutritional Problem

Our brains are organs of our bodies that have reactions to our diet as do all other organs.  This is sometimes overlooked because it is easy to misinterpret brain ailments with mind ailments.  It is an interesting example of this that psychiatrists are "mind" doctors that, almost without exception, prescribe "brain" drugs all the time.

We often talk about a coffee buzz or a sugar high.  This is because our body's systems are straining to keep up with the high levels of intake of certain substances.  These are examples of how food effects our brains.  ADD/ADHD sufferers have either a greater sensitivity to certain foods or a greater need for certain nutrients, probably both.

On October 25, 1999 the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued a press release concerning recent work concerning children's behavior and diet.  From the press release:

    "It makes a lot more sense to try modifying a child's diet before treating him or her with a stimulant drug," said Dr. Marvin Boris, a pediatrician in Woodbury, New York, whose 1994 study found that diet affected the behavior of two-thirds of his subjects. "Health organizations and professionals should recognize that avoiding certain foods and additives can greatly benefit some troubled children."

     Several experts on diet and behavior joined Boris today calling on Donna Shalala, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to encourage parents and professionals to modify children's diets before resorting to drug treatment. They asked HHS to undertake new research into the link between diet and behavior and to "consider banning synthetic dyes in foods and other products (such as cupcakes, candies, sugary breakfast cereals, vitamin pills, drugs, and toothpaste) widely consumed by children." Those experts include Ted Kniker, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Joseph Bellanti, Georgetown University Medical Center.

The forty-three page report "Diet, ADHD & Behavior" and the twenty page "Parent's Guide to Diet, ADHD & Behavior" available in PDF format for viewing and printing as well as scientists letters and the full press release courtesy of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

  • Food Sensitivities

 Food allergies are not uncommon.  Most all of us can name some food that doesn't agree with us.  Most of us have experienced a sugar high or a coffee buzz as I mentioned earlier.  There are a number of researchers that have identified some of the foods for some of the people suffering from ADD that are a problem.  One of these pioneering researchers was Dr. Feingold.

Dr. Feingold developed a system to eliminate certain elements (salicylates, food colorings, preservatives, etc.) from a patients diet as a "cure" for ADD.  Please visit the Feingold Association Dietary Connection to Better Behavior, Learning & Health.    There is also a balanced discussion of diet and ADD from the National Institutes of Health at DEFINED DIETS AND CHILDHOOD HYPERACTIVITY.

Most probably, simple carbohydrates need to be all but eliminated.  This means anything with processed or high concentrations of sugar.  The "natural" fruit drinks that use highly concentrated apple juice, or the like, provide just as much sugar as if they had "sugar".  These most probably need to be avoided.  Additionally, most synthetic foods (additives, including sugar substitutes) need to be avoided, including those recommended by Feingold.

As Feingold suggests, a good procedure to attack this situation is to eliminate the food classes described, then slowly reintroduce them to the diet in order to identify the real culprits.

  • Nutritional Supplementation

 Vitamin C and niacin supplementation are critical.  Other supplementation is highly recommended.  Specifically,

  • Vitamin C to bowel tolerance limit (see How Much to Take)
  • B-complex supplement ( one "B-100" tablet daily)
  • Additional Niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid (another B vitamin)*
  • Pygnogenol (please see the article, FAIRBORNE PYCNOGENOLÆ MONOGRAPH #2 )
  • Multivitamin, mineral supplement

*B6 an additional 150-450 milligrams.  Pantothenic acid an additional 200mg.  Niacin, as much as 2-3 grams per day.  Niacin has been strongly linked to brain chemistry by many research studies.

The supplementation is pretty innocuous (with the exception of the Niacin, see below and please see the monograph by Dr. David Madeira on Niacin) and should be started right away and continued indefinitely, especially the vitamin C. 

While mega-doses of vitamin B3, niacin, are quite safe, there are some contraindications (reasons contrary to use) and side-effects.  I quote here from the booklet Megavitamin Therapy, as printed in Psychodietetics by Cheraskin, Ringsdorf, and Brecher:

Niacin Contraindications:

  • Peptic ulcer or hyper-acidity patients should observe the diet and medication prescribed by their physicians, and if they cannot tolerate niacin, should use it with antacids; or they can use other preparations like buffered niacin or niacinamide.
  • Diabetics may need more insulin when they take niacin, though not all diabetics react this way.
  • High blood pressure patients who use Reserpine type medications may experience nausea and considerable drop in blood pressure, when using high dosages of niacin.  This might not be dangerous, but could be very inconvenient. [niacin's blood pressure lowering qualities could be of significant value to those with high blood pressure, especially if this means the ability to avoid pressure lowering drugs.  I know of no studies about this.  Ed.]
  • Liver function tests might show false indications for a person on niacin.  Therefore, niacin should be discontinued for a week before this or other sensitive tests [like the glucose tolerance test] are taken.  Smoking also disturbs glucose tolerance tests.
  • Niacin Side Effects:

  • Vitamin B3: Niacin, but not niacinamide, causes flushing at the beginning.  Your skin turns pink, as though you had a sunburn.  You might feel your skin tighten and you may have some prickling feeling or itching.  This flush might start almost immediately, or hours after you take the pill, and at the beginning it might last for a few hours.  Some people like it; others, especially children, cannot tolerate it.  If you drink a glass of cold milk after taking the tablets it reduces the flush.  Or take niacin with the solid part of your meal.  Regulate your schedule so that their is little flushing in public.  Your physician can prescribe 4mg. Periactin, but take this only when you wish to eliminate flush or other side effects.  Even if you got accustomed to niacin and do not flush any more, it starts again if you neglect taking niacin for a few days and then take it again.  If you cannot get accustomed to it, change to niacinamide, which does not cause flush.  Neither flush nor the other side effects are dangerous, but might be very inconvenient to some people.
  • Dryness of skin, or increased brownish color may be caused by niacin and nicotinamide.  These are harmless and disappear in time.
  • About five people out of 100 get headaches.  If this occurs, switch to slow-release niacin or niacinamide.
  • A few people develop nausea and rarely even vomiting.  Vomiting or nausea may increase during influenza infection.  These can be remedied by Periactin or by using buffered niacin, or niacinamide.  Niacinamide produces vomiting only if the dosage is too high.  You can find the optimal dosage for you by raising the dosage by one gram until vomiting occurs.  Then reduce it by one gram.  This is your optimal dosage.
  • Soft stools, diarrhea, and foul-smelling stools are possible side effects, but generally disappear when treatment is discontinued and do not appear again when treatment is resumed.
  • If skin rash develops, it can be cured by taking 4mg. Periactin with the niacin, when needed.
  • In some rare cases, a drop in blood pressure, insomnia, or depression may accompany the use of niacin or niacinamide, and a physician should be consulted.
  • Hypoglycemia patients are generally benefited by niacin, but diabetic ones may need to increase their insulin dosage.
  • Allergic reactions might occur, due not to niacin but to the filler [starch, etc.] used to make the tablets.  In this case, products of another company should be tried out, because they might use a different kind of filler that does not activate the allergy.

    I know this list is long, but I wanted to give you the whole story.  Please do not read this and decide NOT to try niacin.  It is very important and if the contraindications are no problem, niacin should be supplemented.  Work with the possible side effects.  Almost none of them are at all serious and are all rare, except the flushing.

    If you have tried a nutritional approach to ADD, please share your experience with our readers.

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    ADD References


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